WHAT HAPPENS now that legalized gambling and statehood have been approved by the voters? The first step for both proposals will be a 30-day congressional review period. But it is not likely that there are 30 legislative days left in the current Congress, so the review period may not begin until the new Congress meets in January. Either way, it is likely that there will be congressional opposition to both plans. Sen. Charles Mathias, now a leading member of the Senate's subcommittees handling District affairs, is on record as opposing both.
Should gambling and statehood get past Congress, their next and biggest problem will come in finding the money to get started. The city treasury does not have the money and, even if it did, it is questionable whether Congress would allow the city to use its funds to support a gambling operation or a statehood convention. Probably private financing of gambling could be arranged. The lottery is such a sure-fire issue that, with the city council's authority, the Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board could no doubt get a private loan to pay the cost of starting the gambling operations. But statehood is something else. That initiative calls for the city to fund a statehood convention with $750,000. No one is going to lend the statehood drive money, and if we were gambling types, we'd bet plenty against the proposition that the city could persuade Congress that financing a statehood convention is a good use of money.
If miraculously, all this got arranged, the gambling plan would get started when the mayor named five commissioners (paid $15,000 each -- except for the chairman, who is to be paid $18,000) to the gambling board. The city council would not have to approve the mayor's choices, but it would have to be consulted. Then the board would select a full-time executive director of gambling in the city, to be paid around $50,000, to run the day-to-day operations of the board. This director would then name a chief of the lottery and numbers division. At that point, the gambling board would be ready to purchase a computer system to run the lottery. Much money is at stake in that computer contract. The $80,000 ad campaign in favor of the gambling initiative was paid for by a firm hoping to sell the city its computer.
Only after a computer system was in place would the gambling board have to make a crucial decision: should companies be contracted to run the gambling game or should the gambling board begin a bureaucracy of its own? It may seem still academic, but we already have a view on this eventuality: given the history of large government bureaucracies in this city, it would be best to hire an outside company that can be audited and held accountable for problems without political considerations. So when will you be able to play the numbers in Washington? August at the earliest, according to the people who shepherded the gambling initiative to victory. But don't bet on it.
Statehood faces a far more difficult route to its final goal. First and foremost of its problems is that $750,000 budget.If the money were somehow found, the next step would be election of delegates to the conventions, presumably next November, when school board races are to be held. Sixty days after that election, the convention would convene.
In the realm of reality there are a few things to be done. The mayor and the council should deal with and correct certain problems in the legislation; they can improve it without countermanding the clear will of the District's voters to seek statehood and to have legalized gambling. They can start looking for possible sources of funds. They will also have to address, as District spokesmen, the retinue on Capitol Hill.